In trouble for good: Horse show recap!

It’s been a funny time- I have shown more dressage this past year than in my entire life, and you know what? I have been feeling VERY competent in it (mostly, ha). So when I had my first jumping show in a year, I kind of expected it to go, well? We attended the Cedar Vista Schooling Series jumper show, in the 2’3” match the clock jumper division.

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From a million years ago (2014 actually!). At the Appy Show series. Photo courtesy of Anne-Marie Sorvin.

Well, it went, that’s for sure. But it wasn’t the consistent, competent and thoughtfully-ridden show of my dressage shows past. I still felt very nervous and anxious, and I found it quite difficult to ‘connect’ in with my dear horse. That led to me ‘checking out’ for the first, oh, three jumps on course until we got to jump 4, and I was able to connect back and actually RIDE my pony. That led to some truly sloppy rails. SIGH! And some very backed-off fences.

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At the Appy Show series. Photo courtesy of Anne-Marie Sorvin.

Would I have preferred to click in for jump 1? YES! But was I at least glad I noticed I wasn’t checked in, and was able to do it for jump 4? Also YES! So, win some, lose some.

I’m going through a process here, and it is not as easy as I thought it would be.

Funny I don’t have this in dressage- jumping just has some ‘extra’ in it that leads to my brain hamsters falling off their wheels! I will have to work hard to manage it. I have some ideas to practice tomorrow in my jump lesson, so I am glad that I have a plan that I trust, to work towards.

Also, I had a really fantastic ride in the field the day before the show (Saturday) when I had my husband come and take a video of a small course of 9 fences I strung together. It was just so awesome, flowing, smooth, happy and positive. I wish all my rides could feel that nice! 🙂

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Never Have Enough

Had an equine counseling session, and we did it in the field! I love riding in the field and it’s been so warm lately, ahhhhh my favourite.

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A few years ago- riding in the field is my favourite! 

Some things we identified- using coping mechanisms like teeth clenching, hands in fists, and biting my tongue are older coping mechanisms (numbing actions) that became a part of me- without me really noticing or knowing. I still use these when I am managing stress, and they have a part to play- to a point. Now, knowing I use these coping mechanisms is important and also the fact that I have them isn’t bad or anything- I just have to recognize that I am using them, and be ok with it!

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Last year- wheee! 

It was a very interesting session, and I know that I will probably have a few more while I manage some anxiety that bubbles up. It’s funny, because things are actually really good right now- which is apparently the best time to manage these little ‘blips’ that come up on the surface.

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And in the meantime? Just be ok with it, and understand that it’s a process to work though. Ah, life! Like horses, like anything- something that requires effort, haha.

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Don’t you know what regret looks like?

It looks like the road not taken- but actually, things have been going fairly swimmingly on my end!

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Photo courtesy of Bonita Stables- this is at Fairlawn at the awards lunch last weekend. Beauty day eh?

Monday I had an equine counseling session, and it was kind of challenging in an emotional way, you know? But, something was coming up, and I knew I needed it.

Tuesday I had a casual hack with a friend and it was exactly what I needed. Oats and I were chill, things were just flowing- although I was noticing more in the outdoor arena that he seemed quite ouchy and footsore- particularly when we moved up to canter. I didn’t ride for that long due to that. Fortunately, he was getting front shoes on Wednesday, just in time for my jumping lesson on Thursday!

Thursday we warmed up and his canter felt…strange. Like he was coming up more, and pounding on the sand with his hooves? He felt unsure about his new kicks, and his canter reflected this- he lost impulsion throughout the corners and broke pretty much EVERY time in the top-left hand corner. He was also quite looky and had some spooks in the ‘scary corner’ where we had a gymnastic grid set up. Goof!!

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We had a grid (canter-in bounce grid, two bounces to two-two-strides. Ha, try saying that twice!!). We MAJORLY fumbled the grid more than a few times, like whoa. I don’t know how to ride kind of fumbles. Ahhhh…. Anyways. We schooled a faux-ditch with barrels and it went pretty well. Ditches and weird-looking jumps are no big for Oats.

Course time! Lots of jumps and some interesting features- a ‘rock’ skinny *(ooh) and the gymnastic, the faux-ditch, barrels, some natural planks, and a few oxers. I was like kind of wanting to freak out, but also felt like…Ok. We got this.

And we cantered it, and it went pretty well. Not fabulous- my eye was majorly off and I couldn’t find a distance to save my life, hahah. Oh well.

Then a few jumps went up, and we did it again! First jump, good, second, ok too and then the grid…Yikes. I somehow thought it would be a good idea to collect Oats for the grid while we were IN the grid. Newsflash- bad idea!! He crashed through the x-rail, and then stopped for a poop, ha.

We regrouped and I approached it with a better idea of wtf I was doing. Whoops, sorry pony!

Rest of the course was ok, I was still plagued with a pretty lousy ‘eye’ for any and all jumps, but Oats was cool with it so on we went! I am, however, having trouble making decisions in a line- for example, collecting his canter for the grid BEFORE the grid (???), riding a quieter 6 instead of kind of just riding 5+? and trying to collect or take back the last two strides before the jump in the line. I need to be making these decisions much sooner in my ride.

Argh, get with the program, me!

Ah, well. At least my position was better this week, with me ‘going with it’ for my terrible eye and lack of decisions.

 

Trap for young players: Jump lesson update!

Another jump lesson in the outdoor arena for me yesterday! I started off in a MUCH better mood than last week (though I have one lingering concern that has been eating my sleep this week, unfortunately).

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Then I kind of felt cranky at our lousy canter- shuffle and was like, ‘I can’t ride out here! Why do I constantly feel like a beginner?’ Crabbing…and Nicole laughed and was like, of course you can ride. Deal with it!

And you know what? We had some ugly spots, and some ‘blah’ moments and I dealt with each and every one of them. We worked over a small grid (bounce to 1-stride to a 2-stride) and he was sluggy, and I had to ‘woman up’ to get the strides I wanted. And I did. And he got it!

Then we moved on to a small course. None of the jumps were intimidating, but we were jumping several small oxers…So…yeah. This is where trusting my body needed to come in. No matter what, my body is strong, capable and extremely fit. So what is the big deal? Oats is a safe horse and my body will protect me, it knows exactly what to do. One thing I am fairly proud of- we had a line of jumps with seven ‘quiet’ strides in between. The striding would be perfect if I left Oats alone to do the quiet strides, not pushing, nagging, pumping, etc. It’s harder to do for me than you think! But, both times the 7 rode great, very quiet and met the oxer at the end with no issues.

I need to trust my physical ability more.

With that in mind, we raised a few jumps (not many, ha) and I went in and immediately flubbed the first fence. Whoops! I regrouped and came back to it, and things went well!  We had 1 kind of ugly jump to the bigger oxer (2’6” I guess?) and finished the course, and I pointed to it and said that one kind of freaked me out! And Nicole was like, ok sure pick up canter and go jump it right now, one-handed.

WTF?

And I did it! And it went perfectly. Rode it out with my right hand on the reins and my left hand free-wheeling, hahah.

I trusted my body to do the right thing, and it went totally fine. Now, I just need to do that a million times. Deal with the ugly, awkward, discombobulated and know I will be fine, because I know how to do it.

Easy eh? Ha.

The machine that made us: Jump lessons!

Yesterday. Wow. So, the day went pretty seamlessly- work was good, it was fairly pleasant to run home and I was heading out to enjoy a walk with Gidget. I had my headphones in, and was listening to my favourite podcast at the moment (Casefile, check it out!) until my good mood came to a screeching halt thanks to an insanely rude, entitled neighbour.

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Dirty details don’t need to come out but protip: Confronting someone with ‘are you deaf’? pretty much NEVER goes well, you old crank. God, it really brought my happy mood down and raised alllllll of my hackles. Don’t mess with me. 

Anyways, I was amped and angry and then spent over an hour driving in traffic to the barn, leading to me rushing around and literally running to grab tack, horse, boots…Yeah. I was in an awful mood going into my riding lesson. Pissed, running late, angry, etc etc the proverbial black cloud was hanging over me.

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This sadly bled into my ride. I felt awkward, clumsy, not connecting well, Oats felt sucked back, tenderfooted and his canter? Ha, what canter. He could not hold the canter, warmed up feeling like a piece of cardboard…Yeah. So, success??

We worked over a few elements of the course in the outdoor and they went ok, until we strung them into a course. Ugh, horrible. I was getting left behind, riding defensively, you name it, I was doing it. I could NOT get in the ‘groove’ per se.

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We regrouped, and then went to tackle the course again- and Nicole suggested I let my body ‘flow’ more and focus on a big, exaggerated two-point bend/release instead of my stiff, defensive, ‘sit’ position. This would help Oats jump better too, as he would feel me committing more to the jump and not riding from the backseat (one of my bigger flaws at the moment).

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Brenda kindly gave Oats her old flymask after his other one got destroyed last week. Wonder how long this will last?

And wouldn’t you know, it worked! Our second course rode really well! Some bobble fences, but overall it flowed much better, we met the fences together, rather than Oats and then me, and it was overall just much more pretty and positive. A great note to end on! AND my friend was there, so I got video + screenshots from it. YES! Plus- I matched with Oats (on purpose this time) so we look pretty too.

So, from good, to really bad, to good again. A rollercoaster of a day!

 

Ultramarathoner

So I did something this past weekend that seemed pretty crazy to ‘outsiders’ but pretty old hat for running nutters- I ran a 50k trail race.

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On the homestretch and feeling strong. Photo by Joseph Camilleri.

Now let’s backtrack a little- I didn’t tell anyone I was training for this, except for Ian and a few friends (ok, 1 friend). It scared me more than a little, and I was worried about it. Just completing it felt like a huge task, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to do. I also didn’t want people analyzing me, or my running, or second-guessing how I was going to do. I wanted it to be personal, for me.

So…I kept it under my hat for months. I signed up for the race in December after deciding last year that if I couldn’t go faster, I would go longer. Of course, then I had an incredible race season that proved that I COULD go faster, so…Ha. But I maintained that this was my main goal- completing the race.

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At the start- the lady with the hat and walking poles is the legendary ultrarunner Ann Trason. 

The race: Prairie Inn Harriers 2:18 Run Elk/Beaver Ultras. Why Ultras? Because they offer multiple distances for the choosy runner (or crazy runner). I raced the most popular distance (50k), and they have a 40k walkers category, and a 100k and 50-miler.

The race is quite small, which surprises me because for a beginner’s ultra it is very race-friendly. Run 5 loops for the 50k- a bit repetitive due to the loops, but VERY safe, easy to stay hydrated and fueled, no need to carry nutrition or water with you, and it’s a flat course with some gravel and some roots but nothing difficult.

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Lap four and going strong! 

So, pretty doable for a first-timer ultra. The race started at 6am, I got up at 4:30am to choke down enough breakfast (hated eating, but I didn’t have a real choice) and get to the lake for the start. I was fortunate enough to have my long-suffering husband come and be my support crew (driving, handing me gels/Gu’s, electrolytes at each checkpoint to mark the laps).

Basically my brain/body was still asleep for oh, two laps or so? I ran pretty slowly and had a hard time getting with it. I felt like I didn’t really ‘warm up’ and feel like running or racing until the second lap. Which I guess, if you have 5 of them, is totally ok! I ran with another runner for the first lap (Steve) and we helped up another woman who went crash landing face-first on the ground. She was ok, but ended up dropping out after that.

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My best support crew ever! 

By the third lap, I was in the groove. I was doing it! It was a beautiful day, I had to use the washroom but nothing bad, and I felt like my fueling/water was right on target. I ate a LOT of Gu’s and gummies. The maple syrup gel I tried out was so gross I thought I was going to puke- gagging sweet. ICK!

I also ate a S’mores GU that basically slurped right down my throat because it got so warm, which was kind of gross but also…kind of ok? Ha. I really liked the Powerbar gummies, yum and great texture. The Clif Shot Bloks were harder to chew than I recalled.

I was getting tired of sweet things- yick, so many sweet things.

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Each lap I ran through the checkpoint to register my bib, and grab a few doughnut pieces to eat while I gulped down water and electrolytes. It was getting hot, my face was prickly with dried salt that abraded my nose whenever I rubbed it.

Halfway through the 4th lap (35k) my legs started howling. Wow, this was getting hard.

I struggled on and went through my last checkpoint- Ian was cheering and encouraging me, and I felt pretty good heading into the last lap. Except my right knee locked up when I started running again, and I limped for close to a kilometer until it got with the program. I was pretty concerned- was this where it ended for me? 40km? But I kept moving and motion is lotion so my knee got with the program and it was ON!

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The aftermath- not too bad actually!

My goal was to basically finish, but I was aiming for around 5 hours or under. I was right on target on my last lap, and I needed to basically pull it together for 10km more.

I felt pretty strong overall, and random older men who were unofficially manning the water stations (ersatz…water bottles left on picnic tables, haha not fancy) were impressed and told me I was looking really strong. YES! I can do this!

I ‘raced’ ok it looked like I was walking but I swear I was running so fast into the final stretch and I couldn’t believe it was over.  I ran it in 4:51 for third place in my age-group. A huge sense of relief, but also …I was expecting more? For it to feel different? For me to feel different?

I chatted with the volunteers, stood around for awhile and then we headed out for brunch- yes!! I did have a hard time scrambling out of the car (low+calves cramping up= can’t move nimbly) but otherwise, my recovery has been pretty fine. Phew!

So I did it. And I feel like if I did it, anyone can. It’s just a matter of putting your mind to a bigger, more frightening goal.

 

Final race of the 2018 VIRA Season- Bazan Bay’s 5k Recap!

It feels weird to write this, because earlier this past week I was like oh man, I am soooooo over racing! But then when I was at the race, I was thinking, boo…I want to race every weekend! Mixed emotions much?

I am having the race season of my LIFE! Each race, I am meeting the challenge and overcoming it. It feels incredible, to be completely honest. Wow. How lucky am I, that my body is responding to the increased demands in such an awesome way?

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Series award, Frontrunners gift cert & bronze in my AG. What a weekend!

All that to say- my goal for the 5k was to get under 21 minutes. It felt like a stiff goal to me, as my weakest distance is the 5k for sure, and really any shorter distances. I just don’t have the power.

So I mentally wrote off this race as a ‘for fun’ race and a way to cap off the season of good racing. I was even asking Ian AT the race what my splits should be if I wanted to get under 21, and he said around 4:10/km. Yeesh, that seemed way too fast for me. So yeah I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. My eye is on a bigger prize.

At the start, it was quite warm! I was wearing shorts and a long-sleeved Lululemon run shirt and kind of wishing I was wearing a t-shirt. Crazy eh? We were packed in close and the start was hairy- I watched someone almost smoke a small child that was up too close. Yikes!

We bustled and battled it out for 200 metres or so, and then things smoothed out. I felt like I was running pretty hard in that awkward ‘legs haven’t caught up to my lungs’ way. My first KM was about 3:56 or so? Phew, so I have some room.

We kept running and I had my eye on a few runners who I typically race with, as they have similar pacing and strengths to me. Next KM- 4:07. Ok, that I can work with, but I’d have to really watch to make sure it didn’t creep up….

KM 3- this is when I started catching runners. Not gonna lie, it felt AWESOME. Usually KM 3 is when the wheels fall off, but I just felt stronger. I ran this one at 3:50 I think? Between 3-4, I started really breathing hard, Jesus when was it going to be over? I started staring at my GPS watch, ha. A girl I caught up with-and-passed was gasping and breathing really horribly. It made me feel a bit concerned. Her coach or parent was on the sidelines telling her she had to ‘ make a decision…’

I ran a bit faster to put her behind me- it was very distracting.

And I could see the finish line- almost there! I was running as hard as I could, even though I did get caught up by a few runners who had a better sprint that I did. I could see the clock and couldn’t believe my eyes- 19-something?? Wha?

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Photo courtesy of VIRA. Third place age-grouper.

I ran down the clock and staggered around trying not to puke. Long time racer Gary Duncan saw my finish and came over to give me a hug and congratulate me. I had just raced under 20 minutes! 

Whoa! My chip time just squeaked under 20, at 19:58 and my official gun time was 20:04. I couldn’t believe it! That amazingly was good for 3rd in my age group. We also had the year-end series awards and I got FIRST in my age group! That came with $100 to Frontrunners! 🙂

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Series-end awards. Breeches are probably the least flattering pants around…Photo courtesy of VIRA.

Ian placed really high in his age-group too- 4th! Not too shabby! He is much faster than I 😉

Thanks again to VIRA for a fantastic race season. I’m floating on air, ending on a very high note. YES!